It’s World Book Day today, as parents who have been stressing over their children’s costumes for the past few weeks will already be painfully aware.
Beyond the hassle of trying to ensure that your child doesn’t have the worst costume in their class – second-worst is fine – there’s an important message behind World Book Day.
Obviously, you don’t need to be told that books are great. You are clearly a discerning reader yourself. If you have children, I’m sure you have passed a love for books on to them too.
But let me say it anyway.
Books are windows into a million different universes.
Books impart information about our world. They take us to faraway places. They encourage us to exercise our own imaginations, supplementing words with pictures. They allow us to share in the adventures of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen and Christian Grey. (Although maybe I won’t encourage the kids to exercise their imaginations about the last of these just yet …)
Books fuel knowledge, creativity and curiosity. But they also build habits and memories that last a lifetime.
As a child, I had a voracious appetite for books. I have vivid memories of being tucked up in bed while my father succumbed repeatedly to plaintive requests for “just one more story, pleeease!” Later, I can remember entire school holidays spent curled up with a book (or 20). Books whiled away boring work commutes and long summer evenings with a bottle of wine.
And a love of books and the stories they tell led to my love of writing. If I hadn’t been a keen reader as a child, I doubt I would have become a blogger as an adult.
The gift of books
We have been lucky. Very lucky. All three kids have needed little encouragement to read. They get as excited over new books as they do over new toys. (Well, almost.)
So when the folks over at children’s publisher Milly & Flynn offered to send me some books for Kara to help promote their ’10-minute book club’ campaign – #10minsbookclub if you want to join in – I was delighted to sign up. So too was Kara, who tore into the packet when it arrived and pronounced herself delighted.
The idea is simple. As parents, we agree to spend at least 10 minutes every day reading to their children. Easy-peasy.
Of course, the joy of books comes from more than just the basic mechanics of reading words on a page. There’s scope for interaction, silly voices and talking about the stories to develop comprehension and stimulate conversational skills.
The books we received from Milly & Flynn provided a good mix of styles and activity.
The attractively illustrated recreations of classic tales The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood were pitched at a good level for Kara, who’s not yet five. She is familiar with both stories, which gave her the confidence to either read or infer much of the text, accompanied by fits of the giggles as I huffed and puffed at her or imitated her grandmother’s voice. (Apparently I do a good wolf. Who knew?) Each of these books has a quiz section at the back to encourage discussion and probe the child’s understanding of the story – a great idea.
Children often have a natural feel for stories that flow with a recognisable cadence. As well as being funny, I Am Not A Lizard bounces along combining rhyming lines with a repeating structure that Kara loved. She also loved the popup page at the story’s denouement when it is revealed that the subject of the story is not a lizard but a … well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
Her favourite book of the set, though, was I Saw A Shark. Beautifully illustrated, comically amusing and pitched at just the right age where I could encourage her to test out her developing reading skills, it proved to be a book that we could enjoy together as I would read one section to her and then she could show off by reading the next, all the while opening out the flaps on each page to reveal pictures and text concealed beneath.
As a collection, Kara found something to enjoy in all four books and it underlined for me the importance of variety in reading. A combination of familiar classics and newer stories, and of simple page-turners, popups and flappy books, all adds up to no two bedtimes being the same. The standard of modern children’s literature in general is almost universally excellent and I would certainly recommend these Milly & Flynn books, which make for a welcome addition to Kara’s burgeoning bookcase.
Anyhow, back to the idea of pledging 10 minutes a day to reading. Here’s the thing. If you sleep for 7-8 hours per night that means you’re awake on average for around 1,000 minutes every day. Is it that much to spend 10 of those minutes – a mere 1% – reading to our kids? Doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, does it?
It’s a small investment of time that builds invaluable skills in our children and – perhaps just as importantly – creates habits and memories they will retain long after they have outgrown bedtime stories. I feel pretty good about that.
You can find out more about Milly and Flynn products on their website. The four books mentioned here can all be purchased on Amazon.co.uk via these links: I Saw A Shark, I Am Not A Lizard, The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.
Disclosure: I was sent these books for free in exchange for promoting Milly & Flynn and the #10minsbookclub campaign. All views expressed in this post are my own.